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Graphel Carbon Products’ Blog Nationwide

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At Graphel Carbon Products, we know that you’re concerned about the latest industry trends and products worldwide. That’s why we have a blog about graphite and EDM solutions. Take a look through our articles down below to learn something new, then contact us with questions.

Reducing Sinker and Wire EDM Consumable Costs

A key area for improvement in EDM operations is the reduction of consumables. New technologies, machine settings and improved material grade limit ram or sinker EDM electrode wear to 0.1% while maintaining productive machining speeds. For wire EDM, new low-consumption technologies reduce the biggest expense—the wire itself—by as much as 50 percent.

With all EDM machines you experience the benefits of designing and cutting complex shapes and tapered holes with hard metals. You can depend that the machine has the capacity to cut exactly what you want.
Sinker EDM machines use an electrode and workpiece submerged in liquids such as oil or dielectric water. A power supply is connected to the electrode and generates electrical potential between both of the parts, producing a breakdown to form a plasma channel and spark jumps. The sparks initiated by the power supply often times strike one another.

In the sinker EDM process, wear on the electrode starts as soon as the erosion process begins. As metal is burned away on the workpiece, the electrode gradually experiences wear and loses it’s fine details and is dimensionally changed. Minimizing electrode wear is not only critical to reducing costs and lead times, but also improving part accuracy.

From a general sinker EDM perspective, quality graphite electrode materials provide the most productive machining speed. The wear rate of a graphite electrode depends largely on the size of the detail, the electrode reduction amount, and the power settings used. But the grade of the graphite is a contributing factor. Using the correct grade of graphite will limit wear and rate of erosion.

Wire electrical discharge machining uses a single string of thin metal wire to cut thick metals for precise incisions and splits. Similar to Sinker EDM, Wire EDM uses an electrode and spark to cut metal. Using a spark erosion technique, Wire EDM machining submerges the part being cut in deionized water and the wire acts as the electrode, creating a spark that roughs or skims the part into the desired shape without the wire ever coming in contact with the part.

The price of a wire EDM machine is minimal when compared to the cost of the wire over the life expectancy of the machine. Excessive wire consumption on a wire electrical discharge machine is costly. Technology that allows slower unspooling speeds without compromising results appears to be the answer. Wire is the single highest expense in operating a wire EDM. With even the least expensive EDM wire running $5 to $6 per pound, investing in low-wire consumption EDM machines appears to be the answer.

A key area for improvement in EDM operations is the reduction of consumables. For Sinker EDM users, consider using better grades of quality materials to reduce cost. For Wire EDM users, consider investing in new technology with machine settings that reduce the amount of wire used.

When It Comes To EDM Graphite – You Get What You Pay For

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November 2017 Blog
Karl Schmidt, QMR/SSBB – Quality Manager
Graphel Carbon Products

This past October, a Japanese company named Kobe Steele was found to be falsifying test records and substituting materials for various genuine metallics used in the transportation industry.  Although rare, this can and does happen in the graphite industry.

Graphel Carbon Products has been AS9100 Certified since 1994, and we verify all of our materials and suppliers.  We only sell materials that are genuine and verified, and do not substitute.  As the Quality Manager here at Graphel, I take my position very seriously, and I am very concerned that our customers are purchasing genuine materials, and are not deceived by substitution.

In today’s manufacturing world, materials production and supply have become increasingly complex.  Business moves quickly, information is exchanged almost instantaneously and pressure for immediate performance can be extremely high – even in industries that have long production cycles.  As a result, product shipment and quality assurance can often struggle to keep up.

Let’s start with the definition of substitution:

Product substitution:  Knowing and willful substitution, without the purchaser’s knowledge or consent, of sub-standard, used  or counterfeit or materials those specified in the contract or purchase order.

Although most graphite materials are not used as a robust structural material, they are still a significant part of your customer’s EDM operation.  If your organization does any work in the supply chain of any major aircraft OEMs, whether it’s EDMing of engine hardware, supplying electrodes, or just graphite blocks you will, and do, effect the EDM process.

Consider the following Aircraft OEM specifications:

    • GE spec. P17TF1-S (Electrical Discharge Machining) lists “Electrode Material” as a “Significant Parameter” that “at a minimum, will be controlled within the limits of a control plan” (ref par 3.5 g)
    • Similar requirements are listed for Pratt & Whitney in MES-3251 & 3252
    • AS9100 D states the following in sect 8.4.2 “Type & Extent of Control” of “External Providers”.

Ok, so what does all this mean?  Basically if you buy graphite, you need to require a test report or a certificate of conformance from your provider. You are obligated to validate the accuracy of that report by either an external or internal source within your organization.

Most businesses’ operational profiles involve complicated supply chains that include multiple potential third party suppliers or contractors.  From a business perspective, some feel that there is a transfer of risk when using third party suppliers, but is this really the case?  If a supplier lets you down, where does the buck really stop? How can you ensure that you are working with the right suppliers, and what level of oversight and accountability do you need to ensure quality.  Unfortunately, most of the answers to these questions are unknown, and the operational realities can be obscured.

So, where am I going with this? If you are getting an unbelievably low cost electrode or graphite material, there is probably a reason.

    • Is your electrode or graphite provider AS9100 certified?
    • Can they provide actual or typical material certifications when requested?
    • Are they providing your organization with certificates of conformance?

Graphel Carbon Products is AS 9100 Certified, and has been since the introduction of the standard. Additionally, we are also NADCAP Certified.  We will and do provide certificates of conformance and actual and typical material certificates.

We stand by our products and assure that you are getting the material you have requested.  Graphel Carbon Products makes sure you are getting what you paid for.

Something to Think About – Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing

Artificial Intelligence

Jeff Immelt, previous CEO of manufacturing giant GE recently stated about Artificial Intelligence, “Companies need to become digital to survive – We must turn information into insights and insights into outcomes.”

That implies we have something to think about:

Manufacturing is changing, which isn’t a bad thing. But technology will become difficult to keep up with if we don’t keep an open mind. Though we embrace new technology in some parts of our shop, one trend in particular should be on our radar:

Artificial Intelligence

It will dramatically change our industry. However, coming to terms with that fact can be intimidating. This is often due to a lack of awareness, or a fundamental misunderstanding of AI.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Simply put, artificial intelligence is the reasoning and processing capabilities of certain machines. In essence, these machines are built to mimic the cognitive process of humans through the implementation of AI processes. But they’re not here to replace us.

In fact, artificial intelligence is rooted in the idea of creating machines that are as efficient as possible for organizations like us. It’s created as a means to assist us in learning and problem solving, while in turn learning and solving problems. It grows just as we do. And at its best, artificial intelligence allows us and our businesses to achieve our full potential.

Just take a look at what some businesses have already done.

Decrease unscheduled downtime

Unscheduled downtime is a term used to describe a time period in which a company is not producing. This is different than routine maintenance because there isn’t any planning involved. Most disruptions are very costly, and affect delivery schedules. P&G, however, may not have to put too much concern into it anymore.

P&G has decreased their unscheduled manufacturing downtime for personal care products (diapers, toilet paper, etc.) by 20 percent through the implementation of software primarily rooted in artificial intelligence and intrinsically driven to facilitate efficiency. The programs enhance analytics, as well as the ability to optimally connect all phases of the business units.

Analyze industrial variables

A global leader in many facets of manufacturing, Siemens actively searches for ways to maintain their standing in the industry. In fact, for the past 30 years, the company has been researching ways to do it. And the answer they’ve found? Conveniently, artificial intelligence.

Specifically, Mind Sphere, their custom AI system. It has the ability to not only analyze industrial facilities, but also to be applied widespread throughout the majority of Siemens’ departments.

According to their website, and in the context of Siemens’ energy research, Mind Sphere also “significantly reduces the emission of toxic nitrogen oxides without affecting the performance of the turbine or shortening its service life.”

Advances technological knowledge

At Hitachi, the manufacturers’ primary objective is to instill knowledge. So much so, that their use of artificial intelligence involves the notion of instilling knowledge in more than just their people. Specifically, this is seen in their understanding and application of deep learning. And their robots.
Deep learning is the implementation of neural networks to both simple and complex machines. As Hitachi grows in their understanding of it, their goal of allowing machines to do the same does too. Just take a look at their Swing Robot.

Designed with working neural networks, it first analyzed an immense amount of data. From there, it took about 5 minutes, without human intelligence, to figure out how to swing effectively. It sounds like its right out of a movie, but it’s true. AI is beginning to teach itself, which will be beneficial to us all.

Are your suppliers providing you the quality that meets your quality expectations?

Vendor Quality

Quality is the backbone of your business – without it, you wouldn’t have the reputation in the industry as a quality manufacturer. So, once you have your quality standards set, it’s time to expect the same from your suppliers.

While quality standards will vary, the importance of quality, especially in manufacturing, is a universal requirement. Customers need to be able to trust your brand. To gain that trust, the first thing you need from your suppliers are quality products.

Here are some tips on how to get the quality that you and your customer are depending on.

1. Decide on your own quality standards first.

First and foremost, establish exactly the quality you’re looking for. Have a list of materials and standards that you’re willing to compromise on, and those that you’re not. Is price more important to you, or super-high quality? Establishing all your expectations first will give you a good base to start researching. Also, it will help you eliminate, right away, suppliers that simply can’t meet your standards for any number of reasons.

Also, think about your production needs. Do you require a dedicated production facility for more control? Or, are you willing to go with a shared supplier for a more cost-effective approach? Which is the most efficient for your business model? These are all questions to answer before you think about quality assurance from a supplier.


2. Spend time researching.

Be ready to put time into researching the quality and standards of a variety of suppliers before making a decision. You can visit websites, look at company profiles, ask for references, to see what other customers the supplier is fulfilling.

3. Make sure you “fit” together.

Once you’ve narrowed your suppliers, think about the nature of your organization, business model, and supply chain. Are they prepared for large orders, or quick delivery? Can they supply materials that are only needed occasionally?

Another aspect of fit to consider is location. Would you consider an international supplier for a lesser cost? If so, that’s a consideration, but you may lose some accessibility. If you choose a local supplier, you usually have more control over the quality – but you may have to pay a higher price.


4. Compliance is a must.

After you‘ve narrowed the field further, see what established quality and safety standards the supplier or manufacturer already has in place. This will be a good indication of what they value and how much they value quality standards. Having a base set of standards eliminates a lot of quality control issues from the beginning.

5. Ask for samples.

Ask for samples of the material and test it in your production facility. Have the supplier provide a sample according to your specifications: this includes cuts, finishes, etc. Or consider asking a manufacturer you’re considering to provide a sample of a similarly manufactured article with required tolerances, legs and or angles.

Get the quality that you require.

Finally, it’s about working with the supplier to get what you require from the beginning. You are looking to build long term relationships. When the standards are set, it’s just a matter of choosing the right supplier and holding everyone, including your organization to those standards. Quality can be a time consuming activity, but it is a worthy investment to get the quality worthy of your brand!

Your Supplier Choice Many Be As Important As Your Material Choice

Your organization spends hours working with suppliers to find the optimal balance of price and material grade. You negotiated, compromised, sent RFQ’s and placed PO’s. In the past, many companies didn’t communicate with their suppliers until the next order or delivery was needed.

Not anymore. Surveys tell us that the attitude toward supplier relationships has changed over the past decade. Companies are now realizing the importance of leveraging strategic relationships with their suppliers. In a poll taken in 2016, 63% of procurement professionals had improving collaboration with suppliers as one of their top KPIs for the year.

In today’s competitive market place, I would argue that on some occasions your supplier choice is as important, if not more important than your material choice.

Knowledge is Key

You may want to think of your suppliers as sources of information as well as sources of product. Most suppliers have knowledge of their competitor’s product as well as their own. Suppliers typically receive extensive product training and can be a great resource of new innovations in your industry. They are likely to be open to providing their own alternative solutions or products that could decrease your costs, increase your quality, or could provide new product innovations.

Compete with Innovation

Your suppliers are consistently innovating with both materials and processes. While some of these innovations may have reached your company, you don’t know what you don’t know. Take some time to ask questions about other processes or techniques that could save your company the headache of figuring it out on your own. Leveraging your supplier as a center of influence will provide you with information you may not have received as a transactional buyer.

As a center of influence, your suppliers will be able to keep you up to date on innovations that have occurred with other customers. This will allow you to leverage other organizations learning opportunities.

Strategic Relationships Create Value

Strategic relationships have the potential to create value for you in many ways. With a customer/supplier relationship the benefits can be both financial and strategic. In its most basic form, a strategic supplier could provide your company with volume discounts, ensure your deliveries arrive on time, and work with you to lower inventory costs.

It is important to realize that as your company grows, you become a larger part of your supplier’s revenue, and in doing so, the success of both companies become intertwined. This is the point where strategic value is jointly created. This value is created by sharing innovation or by jointly creating new ideas. In some cases, one party may financially assist a big growth move that could jointly impact both companies. Regardless of the way the value is created, a synergy is helpful to organic growth and can be fueled by factors outside of your company.

These are just three of the many reasons to reevaluate the relationship you have with your suppliers. Your supplier choice should be as important as your material choice. More and more companies are leveraging their supplier relationships to enhance competitiveness in an ever-growing marketplace

Understanding electrode parameters can improve EDM Efficiency

edm-efficiency


Robert Fothergill, EDM Applications Specialist with Poco Graphite, recently published an article in Mold Making Technology discussing that understanding all the electrode parameters can improve EDM efficiency. I can’t agree more.

As discussed, sinker EDM machining technology has improved significantly over the years. These changes effect the processes and decisions an EDM machinist will face when running the machine. But, some performance factors remain the same even with the advanced technology:


• Machinability – a balance between easy to machine and resilient enough to withstand the machining process

• Metal Removal Rate – achieving the proper electrode material/work metal/application combination rate so the MRR can be maximized

• Wear Resistance – maximizing the electrode to produce and maintain detail related to its wear and machinability

• Surface Finish – surface finish is obtained with a combination of the proper electrode material, good conditions and appropriate power supply. The final surface will be a mirror image of the electrodes surface

• Material Cost – fabrication time, cutting time, labor and electrode wear are all factors that depend on the electrode material

By far, the electrode material used in the EDM process has a direct correlation to the performance and efficiency of the EDM burn. So, the electrode material must be matched to the application to guarantee success at the highest rate of productivity. Graphite grades, particle size, tensile strength, isotropy and uniform structure all are important considerations in material selection.

Unlike the other performance factors, material choice is a performance process you can directly control. You can chose to work only with quality materials that offer consistent profiles. While quality materials cost more, they eliminate the costs associated with inconsistency and machine wear.

I would also add that your relationship with your material provider should also be considered a performance factor. A relationship with a supplier can enhance your overall EDM efficiency. Consistent quality, reliable supply, reasonable price and proper advice are all tangible parts of your overall results.

Regardless of the machine that is being used, each of these performance factors will be impacted by the electrode material. Whether the job calls for a specific surface finish, electrode wear or MRR, a consistent effective electrode material is critical to achieving the desired result.

Consider particle size rather than density when choosing an EDM Graphite Material

Anyone who has ever purchased graphite materials knows that the physical properties of the material are important. You want to use the right product for the application. But in efforts to promote less expensive products, and compete on price, many distributors are focusing on the density of the material. They are presenting density as an indicator of enhanced quality. I would argue that particle size is by far more important than density when choosing the quality of a product.

All EDM Graphites are evaluated using the following physical properties:

• Particle Size
• Apparent Density
• Flexural and Compressive Strength

• Hardness
• Electrical Resistivity

EDM Graphite is made from petroleum coke, a manufactured carbon product. The petroleum coke is pulverized into small particles and mixed with a binder material and then isostaticallly pressed. A series of thermal treatments then convert the material to carbon and ultimately to graphite.

Graphites should not be compared only on density. Density is the mass per unit volume. In efforts to add density, some materials are pitch impregnated prior to the graphitizing process to produce greater density. Pitch is a complex mixture of polynuclear aromatics generally derived from the thermal treatment of coal tar or a petroleum tar. Although this adds density, it may cause erratic particle patterns within the graphite.

While the pitch adds density to EDM Graphite materials, it actually may cause issues:

• It leads to greater spark erosion, by promoting the breaking up of the particles within electrode material, causing the electrode to wear more quickly.

• It slows down the connectivity through the particles of the electrode, causing the burn to take longer, again using up the electrode causing consumption more quickly.

All materials, however, can be compared equally when it comes to particle size. Generally, the smaller the particle size, the better the mechanical properties, the finer the detail and slower the erosion. All one needs to do is have the material analyzed to see the particle size. The differences in particle size can be startling when examined at 100x magnification. Particle size is by far the best indicator of material quality. The smaller the particle size, the slower the electrode wear.

Graphite can also be compared on the uniformity of its microstructure. The more consistent the distribution of particles and porosity, the more even and predictable will be the electrode wear. Lesser graphites have inconsistent microstructure which may lead to inconsistent wear. This can occur between or even within batches. Better quality materials have more consistent and even microstructure, leading to more consistent and slower wear.

Since graphite is a porous material, density must be closely controlled. Generally, high density is preferable, but be sure to consider particle size and microstructure, when purchasing graphite for your application.

5 Reasons to Consider Copper Impregnated Graphite for Electrodes

Copper impregnated graphite is a material with the qualities of both graphite and copper. It is a graphite material manufactured with a controlled amount of interconnected porosity which is then infiltrated with copper by capillary action in a furnace.
The impregnation process is performed at 2400 degrees F (1300 degrees C) in a controlled atmosphere to eliminate oxidation. The graphite must be heated first and then completely submerged in molten metal. Once completely surrounded by molten copper, several hundred atmospheres of pressure are applied to force the metal into the pores of the graphite. After the pores are fully infiltrated, the excess metal is removed and the graphite is allowed to cool.

Shops generally use copper to make electrodes when they have a need to provide a better surface finish and better flushing. They generally use graphite when they have a need to provide fine detail and a higher metal removal rate. Copper impregnated graphite is chosen for electrodes when qualities from both materials are warranted. A shop looking for a material that results in better surface finish and better flushing, while able to hold finer detail or provide a higher metal removal rate may find a copper-impregnated graphite to be a good choice.

Copper impregnated graphite offers the following features:

1. Increased electrical conductivity and mechanical strength

Electrical conductivity is the result of the movement of the electrically charged particles. In the case of the copper, a single valence electron moves with little resistance and causes a repelling reaction. Copper does not interact with carbon; the two elements are essentially immiscible. The copper is precipitated in ferrite, resulting in a hardening effect.

2. It is an electrode material with a low resistivity value that allows the maximization of the amount of energy.

Electrical resistance, is the total opposition to the passage of electrical current, or the flow of electrons. Resistance depends on current passing through. Copper impregnation reduces the graphite’s overall resistance, allow more energy to pass through more quickly.

3. Copper impregnated graphite offers the combined benefits of the ease of fabrication of graphite, and the burn stability and “safety” of copper.

Graphite is a material that is fairly easy to machine. Like carbon, graphite is a non-metallic substance with an extremely-high sublimation temperature which provides resistance to high- temperature arcs. It is a fine grain-sized material, and tends to have better erosion and wear performance. The impregnation of copper stabilizes the erosion and wear, producing burn safety.

4. Copper impregnated graphite can be used on carbide materials.

Carbide is extremely dense and is slow to machine. Carbide EDMing results in a higher wear ratio, and metal removal is slow. Electrodes made from copper impregnated graphite can be run in reverse polarity and high frequency allowing for the energy needed to burn carbide materials.

5. Copper impregnated graphite yields good surface finish.

Graphite and copper electrodes produce comparatively high surface roughness for the materials at higher values of pulse current. Copper impregnated graphite electrodes offer low values of surface roughness at high discharge current which yield good surface finish.

If you require the better finishes, impregnated graphites provide better finishes. Copper- impregnated grades also allow for stable machining when unfavorable conditions exist – such as poor flushing or when the operator is not very experienced with the application.

Copper impregnated graphite is a material with the qualities of both graphite and copper. It is a great alternative when qualities from both materials are warranted. It is when a shop needs an economical alternative requiring a good finish.

5 Reasons to consider CFC Materials for Use in Vacuum Heat Treat Furnace Applications

Many of our customers are inquiring about the benefit of using CFC Materials in their Vacuum Furnace and other Heat Treat applications. While there are many benefits, from increased furnace capacity to quicker turnaround time, there are 5 main benefits that deserve attention:

1. CFC Materials provide High Strength while Light Weight
Thanks to their special fiber structure, CFC is very low weight and robust, especially when it comes to the behavior of fracture and mechanical resistance. Racks and workpieces made of CFC are 8 to 10 times lighter than classical racks. Consequently, they facilitate processes and working cycles and even contribute to the prevention of accidents. With high strength and low weight, CFC jig assemblies are used for vacuum heat treatment and brazing of turbine blades, oil coolers, stainless steel brazing and sintering.

2. Increased Furnace Productivity
CFC is optimally suitable for use in most vacuum furnaces. With the customary temperatures in vacuum furnaces, CFC does not react with process gases such as nitrogen and argon, which decreases cooling time. CFC offers increased productivity and energy savings due to a low thermal mass. Modular systems enable custom-built charging elements quickly and economically for nearly every task. These advantages play a key role since they enable expansion of production with unchanged facility size.

3. Long Service Life
CFC simply pays off. It provides obvious and calculable advantages even at a higher initial price. They enable shorter cycle times with significantly longer service life, are up to ten times lighter than steel racks and do not distort at all. Their high thermal shock resistance ensures a long service life and thus plannable processes and cycles. This makes handling easier and reduces the amount of work involved because it eliminates the straightening work on distorted racks and ensures continuous production.

4. Energy Efficiency
Although its heat absorbing capacity is 2.5 times higher than that of metal, CFC provides a significantly better energy balance than all comparable materials because of its extremely low density. For high-temperature applications this means reduced heating and cooling times as well as less energy demand.

5. Distortion Resistance
Due to its molecular structure, which has almost no tendency to move even at the highest temperatures, CFC is extremely distortion-resistant. It maintains its’ shape which is unchanged even after thousands of uses. It reaches its’ highest stability at temperatures of about 1800° C. Its’ expansion on 1 meter tends to zero at 1000° C. A comparable metal rack expands by about 1.1 cm (approx. 1/2″). The very low expansion coefficient is one of the most important advantages of CFC and graphite.

It is becoming clear that CFC Materials are great alternatives to traditional materials for use in high temperature heat treat applications. From cost savings to increased overall efficiency, the materials offer an attractive alternative.

The Skills Gap May Be the Biggest Opportunity of a Generation

The manufacturing industry of a country is directly proportional to its gross domestic product (GDP). In the US, every dollar spent on manufacturing contributes $1.32 to the economy, and manufacturing supports more than 17 million workers.

Over the next decade, the US manufacturing industry is facing a serious crisis, the skills gap. More than 3.5 million jobs will need to be staffed with 2.7 million manufacturing workers retiring. With the skills gap growing larger, it is presenting several groundbreaking manufacturing opportunities.

With 40% of the students who begin a 4 year college program not finishing, and the mounting college debt crisis, it is prime time for our society to start embracing the value of vocational education.  We have spent a generation telling our children that everyone should go to college…..that only a college education will allow you to reach your maximum potential.

But what exactly is maximum potential? Is it graduating from a 4 year university with a degree in Liberal Arts and $80k in debt, only to find a $15 an hour job, so you have live at home with your parents?  Or is it a 2 year vocational degree, graduating with no debt that allows you to get a job, that may start out at $15 per hour, but has the potential to earn $80k per year after paying your dues and earning some seniority?

We, as a collective, have to start placing a higher value on the creators in our society.  People that use their hands as well as their minds to produce a tangible.  We have spent the last decade convincing ourselves that the only jobs worth pursuing were those which created no tangibles……financial services, hospitality, medical, etc.

But for our country to continue to be the leader in the world, we have to start making things again.  We can’t go on exporting technology in exchange for goods and continue to grow.  I believe we have to start placing higher value on those items that we make. And that means we may have to pay a little more.

So, this skills gap presents the opportunity of a generation.  We have a need to fill 3.5 million jobs over the next decade, and we have an emerging generation of young minds who need careers.  We just need to communicate the value to society these jobs entail.  Making things is important.  Creators are important.  Tangibles are important.

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